Reflections on a Busy and Productive Semester

By Ian D. C. Newbould

During the past three months, I have visited several departments to hear about their work.  Every department, without exception, has been enthusiastic about its programs and its students.  It is clear that the learning environment is first-rate, and that we have faculty members who are very much devoted to students and their education.

There are a few other ongoing projects and activities about which I would like to update you.  Go to the next page to learn about: (1) the College of Education’s successful Virginia Department of Education accreditation visit;  (2) the current status of our SACS reaffirmation; (3) the new Waple Professorships; and (4) some additional information about the announced resource allocation study.

The College of Education had a successful visit from the State Department of Education accreditation team.  The Visiting Committee gave its preliminary report indicating that the College had met all four accreditation standards without any conditions.  To the faculty and staff who did an excellent job preparing for the visit, and for their programs and student development, Congratulations!  We are still awaiting the final written report, but based on the positive exit comments from the visiting team, we expect no surprises.  Congratulations to Dean Mary Gendernalik-Cooper and all her colleagues!  This was a big job, they produced a thorough set of materials and documents, arranged for a comprehensive and pleasant visiting team schedule, and ending up making an outstanding impression.

We have also received the report of the SACS Off-Site team reviewing our Compliance Report submission.  On Tuesday November 27, Drs. Morello, O’Connell and I spoke with Dr. Rudy Jackson, the SACS Vice-President who has been overseeing our reaffirmation of accreditation.  Dr. Jackson complimented us on a good report and the low number of findings requiring a response (only thirteen).   Some of the responses were trivial, such as our need to define what we mean by a terminal degree.  Other responses will require more effort.   The biggest issue concerns Institutional Effectiveness.  There will be a great deal of further work required, both for academic and non-academic units.  Issues to be dealt with include assessment process and measures, missing unit assessments, confusing statements and the like.  We are required to send in a Focus Report on these findings by January 31, along with the QEP.  While there is more work to be done on assessment, I believe that the process is well in hand.

On November 15, President Hurley announced the establishment of the recently endowed Waple Professorships and Waple faculty awards for research and teaching.  The Deans, Dr. Morello and I have been discussing the details of the awards, and a process for applying, and for making decisions on the faculty to be given the awards.  Given the timing of the installments of the $2.5 million gift, three Faculty Fellowships will be awarded for the 2013-14 academic year, and the full complement of eight professorships available by 2014-15.  The details and procedures will be announced before the holidays.

The professorships are named in honor of Shirley Van Epps Waple, an alumna from the Class of 1952 who majored in psychology.  With her husband, she co-founded, operated and served as president of the Professional Adjustment Bureau, Inc. of Troy, NY. The bequest from her estate is one of the largest single gifts to support academics at the University.

Finally, as I think I need hardly mention, the President’s announcement of a resource allocation study has generated a great deal of discussion and angst on campus.  Debra Schleef, UFC chair, has circulated the minutes of a telephone meeting last week with the consultant who will help us to set up a process whereby we study the university, and come to our own conclusions.  The memo, and other information sent out by President Hurley, should help to explain the thinking at this stage.  On December 6, Professor Larry Goldstein will visit us to assess our needs and the parameters of the study.  We are putting an agenda and timetable together that will involve faculty at every stage of the day.  Once the timetable has been established, it will be circulated to all.

This is now a busy time for faculty and students as you prepare for the end of semester, exams and grading.  The holidays will be welcomed, I am sure!




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